Russia ‘installs new Melitopol mayor’ as humanitarian aid for Mariupol will arrive today

The Ukrainian parliament has claimed that Russia has installed a new mayor in the southern port city of Melitopol – a day after the city’s elected mayor was allegedly kidnapped by Russian forces.

Galina Danilchenko, a former member of the city council, was announced as the new mayor on local TV on Saturday, according to reports.

Ukraine’s parliament claimed that the previous mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was kidnapped by armed men acting on behalf of the Kremlin on Friday.

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Moment mayor of Melitopol ‘abducted’

The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kirill Timoshenko, shared a video on the social media site Telegram that appeared to show the moment Mr Fedorov was captured and escorted across a square in the city centre.

It led to more than 2,000 people taking to streets of the city to protest against his alleged abduction.

Melitopol, about 120 miles (190km) west of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, has a population of 150,000 and fell under Russian control on 26 February.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid for the besieged city of Mariupol is set to arrive this afternoon, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

In a video address, the Ukrainian president said the “complexity of the route” had caused delays, and it ended up being held overnight in Berdyansk.

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Desperate situation in Mariupol

Live updates on the war in Ukraine

On Saturday, satellite images showed the extent of the devastation in Mariupol, which has come under heavy shelling.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of attacking humanitarian convoys attempting to bring food and other essentials to the port city of 430,000 people.

Mariupol is strategically important for Russia because it would unite separatist forces in eastern Ukraine with Russian troops in Crimea – leaving Ukrainian troops there isolated or encircled.

According to the mayor’s office, more than 1,500 people have died in Mariupol since the invasion began – and the shelling has interrupted efforts to bury the dead in mass graves.

Tanks have also been seen firing on a nine-storey apartment building, while a group of hospital workers came under sniper fire on Friday.

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Huge damage in Mariupol after blasts

Key developments:
• 12,729 people were evacuated through humanitarian corridors in other Ukrainian cities on Saturday, Zelenskyy says
• Vladimir Putin has been urged to order an immediate ceasefire by the presidents of Germany and France
• “We did not detect a willingness on Putin’s part to end the war,” a French presidential official says
• The UK’s Ministry of Defence says Russian ground forces are 16 miles from Kyiv city centre
• Britons who host Ukrainian refugees will receive £350 a month as a “thank you” from the UK government

Russia ‘trying to create breakaway republic in Kherson’

In a statement filmed on Saturday night, Mr Zelenskyy claimed that Russian “invaders” in Kherson are trying to establish a breakaway region.

He added that they have attempted to blackmail local leaders, put pressure on deputies, and look for people to bribe.

“Ukraine will stand the test. We need time and strength to break the military machine that came to our land,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

Concluding his address, the president claimed that Americans now regard Russia as a “bigger enemy, bigger evil than North Korea” – and support for Ukrainian independence has never been greater.

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Russia hits ‘logistical challenge’

Read more:
Bodies scrambled across unofficial escape route as Kyiv braces for bombardment
Ukraine war mapped – the story of the invasion and what could happen next

Students making thousands of Molotov cocktails among defiant Ukrainians in Odesa